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Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Vernon Davis is helping to promote art education and art appreciation among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds

With Edward Sylvan


My grandmother made a profound impact very early on in my life. She taught me the value in being a hard worker, trustworthy, and responsible. My siblings and I watched her take on a roll as our mother after having raised her own kids. She worked so hard and never complained (at least not in front of us). Whenever I felt like giving up I would think of my grandmother and the strength she displayed throughout my childhood.


As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vernon Davis. A native of Washington, D.C., Vernon played college football at the University of Maryland before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers sixth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He played his first nine seasons in the league for the 49ers, before being traded to the Denver Broncos in 2015 where he won his first Super Bowl championship. In 2016, Davis joined his hometown Washington Redskins. Off the playing field, he has a deep passion for business and building economic solutions in his immediate community. In addition to owning five Jamba Juice franchises in Northern California and planning to open six more throughout Northern Virginia, he recently launched Timeless, a line of sports and health supplements and nutritional products. He has also proudly launched the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, which promotes art education and art appreciation among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I have always had a love for the arts. When I was young I was born in an environment that most would call “disadvantaged.” My community was drug infested and full of violence. I would use drawing and painting as a way to cope with negative feelings and the negative impact my community had on me and my family. When I accepted my scholarship to the University of Maryland I decided to study art as my area of collegiate studies. As a result of my continued studies I had a dream of starting my own art foundation to inspire at risk youth to use art as a form of therapy that same way I did.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

The process of hiring an executive team for my foundation was very interesting to say the least. I had no idea the time and effort that goes into the due diligence and interviewing process to build the right team. It was tough because the majority of the people I interviewed were more interested in talking about how big a fan they were of my football career than mapping out a plan of how we would succeed as a foundation. I learned very early on that finding the right people to help run a business would make or break my potential to succeed.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I would tell them to focus on endeavors that they are truly passionate about. Running a business is hard work and at times you think about throwing in the towel. It is much easier to walk away from a venture that you never had a strong passion for from the start. There are millions of ways to earn money or serve a mission in business, so why not choose one you truly care about.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My grandmother made a profound impact very early on in my life. She taught me the value in being a hard worker, trustworthy, and responsible. My siblings and I watched her take on a roll as our mother after having raised her own kids. She worked so hard and never complained (at least not in front of us). Whenever I felt like giving up I would think of my grandmother and the strength she displayed throughout my childhood.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I have used my platform to inspire all people to live life to the fullest and not let any opportunity pass by. Life is about taking chances, growing spiritually and mentally, and most of all paying it forward to help others succeed. I service this mission more specifically by supporting at risk youth by way of reading programs, art programs, and giving GAP scholarships annually to high school graduates.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

I implement reading tours for elementary schools in the city of DC. I encourage the students to read a number of books and those that are successful receive a massive donation of books and a grant to their library program.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

Reading is the most important tool to be successful in life. I want to make sure that our youth get off to a good start to prepare themselves to be successful adults in the future.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I would say every teacher that I have worked with from first grade all the way through college. It takes a special person to be a teacher that truly cares about the success of their students. I want to take that torch and do my part to help properly educate our youth.

What are your 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone would have told me how hard it would be to find the right executive team. I did not get my team to where it needed to be until 3 or 4 years into the business. I wish someone would have told me that things do not fall into place right away just because you are famous. I learned that being famous almost seemed to have a negative impact regarding certain areas of running a business. I wish someone would have told me to not be so serious all the time and take a moment to enjoy the journey. As a professional football player I have a very competitive nature. I want to win and succeed at the highest level I can at everything that I do. But I learned that you also have to allow yourself to be vulnerable at times and enjoy the process of being molded into a better person because of adversity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe I have already started the movement with my foundation and I hope it is a catalyst for others to take the same path to supporting our youth.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“There is no purpose greater than service to others”. I have learned that when I constantly put myself in a position to serve others it in turns puts me in a position to realize personal goals and dreams I have.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have breakfast with Warren Buffet or Elon Musk. They both have their own unique style of creating wealth, success, and innovation in many industries. I would love to get their evaluation of what I do well, what I could work on, and ideas for the future.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

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